Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Limits and Recognizing When You Have Them

Friday, April 1st, 2011

When I was in grad school, I was also working full time, my son was then quite young, and I was writing and, in fact, was under deadline for most of one semester. I thought I was doing pretty well handling everything. When I had my writing deadline, I only did 2 units of TA, for example. When the English Dept raised the units for grad classes from 3 units to 4 units and effectively made two classes a semester the equivalent of a full time load, I dropped from 2 classes a semester to 1, — a 4 unit class is more work and I didn’t see how I could manage that with my other obligations. So, you see, I was adjusting as needed and handling things. No problem!

And then my day job turned into a nightmare. I got a new boss and he was pyscho. Seriously. He called people at 2AM just to see if they would answer the phone. He threatened and publicly humiliated his staff. There was other much much worse stuff that he did, but suffice it to say, my stress levels sky rocketed and I could no longer deal with my life. For the first time in my grad school career, I went to a class without having done all the reading, and I sat in that class that night thinking — this is it. I can’t do this and stay sane and continue to perform at a high level in every part of my life.

That was the first time in my life I EVER came up against too much. I had a limit, and it was a sobering realization. I decided that I would wait for one more paycheck and then quit my job because anything, even unemployment, would have been better than continuing in that job. (Trust me, I had been to HR several times . . .) Luckily, before the next payday, psycho boss did something so heinous, management could no longer make excuses and he was put on leave and then terminated. So, I didn’t have to quit my job.

While my present situation is not anywhere near that horrible, I have so much going on with trying to work full time, manage my family responsibilities, meet my writing deadlines and manage the self-publishing of my backlist and contemplate what original titles I might self-publish, that I have reached a limit.

I recognize that limit and while I am trying to outsource as much as I can, I need assistance. So I will be hiring someone to help me.

Hopefully that will mean I can go back to writing more.

Limits. It’s important to know they exist and that fighting them can make your life hell. Doing nothing can keep you in hell. No hell for me!

What about you? Any limits that you’ve hit? Life lessons learned?

Back to finishing The Next Historical.


Some Thoughts on Publishing and Backlist

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

Anyone following my blog knows that I had rights to some of my backlist revert to me and that I’m getting them onto Amazon Kindle, Nook and other digital vendors.

Lord Ruin went up on Amazon 2/19 and as of today, I have MORE than made back my expenses. Royalties due me are already in 4 digits. As of today Lord Ruin on Amazon is:

# Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,607 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
* #9 in Books > Romance > Regency
* #9 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Romance > Historical Romance > Regency
* #80 in Books > Romance > Historical

The MMP is 300,000 something because, of course, the book hasn’t been available new in print for years. I don’t have my act together yet on doing the CreateSpace POD version, but obviously I have to get to that.

What does this mean?

The first thing to keep in mind is that Lord Ruin has been impossible to get except as used for years. Because my publisher did not keep the book in print.

These next things are a puzzle for me.
A. Lord Ruin in print wasn’t worth it to my publisher to continue printing
B. My publisher did not consider the digital rights to Lord Ruin to be worth exploiting even though they had them.

A is somewhat contradicted by the fact that I’ve been getting emails on that book every month for 9 years, and hearing complaints about how hard it is to find.
B: My current Amazon numbers suggest they were wrong about that. However, I have priced Lord Ruin at $3.99, no geo-restrictions and no DRM, and my publisher would surely have priced it at nearly twice that and slapped on territorial restrictions and DRM. I’m guessing sales in that scenario would have been lower than they are under the current scenario.

Compare, for example, Lord Ruin to Scandal:

The eBook for Scandal is priced at 7.99 — the same price as the print version. Scandal, a RITA finalist and a book my agent called a tour de force, is #16,064 Paid in Kindle Store. I’m quite sure the book is also DRM’d and comes with geo-restrictions.

Edited to Add: Lord Ruin, I should mention, is highly pirated. I think all but my first two books have been pirated.

I have a marketing budget that consists of my blog, twitter, facebook and facebook ads and I’m about to hit my advertising limit of $200 total spent. Scandal, by the way, got co-op.

In looking at my Kindle sales reports for Lord Ruin, (I’m learning to interpret the reports!) Non-US/Non-UK sales are in triple digits. — That means that people who would, under a print-publisher sales-scenario be unable to buy Lord Ruin CAN and ARE buying it under my scenario. UK sales are also in triple digits.

My costs for getting Lord Ruin into digital format include:
1. A new cover
2. File conversion
4. Time and Frustration

  • My publisher pays many many times more for a cover than I can afford, but that cost is at least subsidized for them by the fact that they use the print cover for the digital cover.
  • File conversion is a PITA but by now I would hope publishers have 1) better software than I do and 2) staff who’ve already been through the learning curve.
  • I probably paid more per unit for my eBook ISBN than my publisher did but that’s also something I could have skipped.
  • My backlist titles have already been edited, copyedited and proofed at no (billable) cost to me. Obviously, I pay an indirect cost in that my advance and royalty rates are lower because my publishers ( I have two, Grand Central and Berkley Books) need to recoup those costs. For my publishers, however, they’ve paid for that in the print book process. And I bet it ain’t cheap. Strictly speaking, however, for the eBook, the publisher is not paying for that a second time.
  • I had to carefully review the eBook source for errors. So does any publisher. And it’s not one source code set. It’s multiple formats. Blech.

For an eBook, the publisher is NOT paying nothing to produce it, but they’re also not paying what they pay to develop the print version.

Lord Ruin, a book that is 9 years old and for which I have spent so far about about $200 total in advertising is kicking Scandal’s ass. My January 2010 paranormal (My Immortal Assassin) is a pretty fresh release. And it’s 18,344 in paid Kindle.

My preliminary take on this is that publishers would be selling WAY more ebooks if they weren’t over-pricing them and they would be selling a lot more books outside the US and the UK if there weren’t geo-restrictions. The lack of DRM on Lord Ruin is also probably a factor. One possibility is that Lord Ruin is a spectacularly good book and my current books aren’t . . . except I don’t think that’s it. Lord Ruin wasn’t a RITA finalist, for example.


I’m pretty sure that for publishers, the print book process is subsidizing, to an extent, the eBook process — that is, certain costs aren’t incurred on the eBook side because they’re incurred on the print side (cover, editing, etc)  The question, then, is what happens if print books go away? Poof! (pretend) Publishers can no longer put out a print version. The eBook business would have to support costs that MUST occur (cover art, editing, copy editing etc).

You’d hope that this doesn’t happen until eBooks are selling in substantially higher numbers than they are now. And let’s pretend that has happened. The ratio is flipped. eBooks account for 80% of total book sales and print accounts for 20%. What’s the total number of sales, though? Are they selling more books or fewer books or the same?

I think it might be fewer. Yikes. But I know for a fact it’s less than they should be selling. Publishers are, in fact, right now this minute, selling fewer books than the market will support. Right now there are readers who want to pay for books and they can’t. That’s insanity.

Publishers will be (and are now) in a world where their own policies have suppressed demand for their product through over-pricing the product and because of their inability to sell to groups of consumers who are willing to buy.

I think unless publishers fix the geo-restrictions mess, they’re in a REALLY hard place because there are substantial sales they aren’t making because of that. The hurt is only going to increase.


I am fiercely glad I have these reverted titles back because Holy Cow, that’s a lot of money going straight to my pocket. It’s really, really clear to me that in Romance at least, publishers have badly missed the boat on the value of backlist titles. Romance readers know their OOP titles. They talk about books that are long out of print. Every Romance author knows this because we’re a part of that community. There are OOP titles that are on our keeper shelves, too, and there are new readers who want these books — and can’t get them for love nor money.

What I know is that Lord Ruin went from earning me $0.0 to earning me 4 figures in 3 weeks.

For the next book I put up, there are some mistakes I won’t make and I will have the timing down better, too.

Some More Observations

This post is half-baked. I’m pretty sure I’m missing some logic bits. What do you think I’ve missed?


Announcement, Good News and a Story coming your way

Monday, February 14th, 2011

MacMillan, which as you may know, does the website, has launched a publisher-neutral Romance website called Heroes and Heartbreakers. The site is live today, Monday February 14. Full disclosure: I’m going to be blogging for them from time to time and I’ve also written a short story for them called The King’s Dragon. You can read the teaser today, by the way. Check out the awesome artwork!

I’ll tease you a little more about the story. It’s set in a Fantasy world in which humans and a race of elves don’t exactly get along anymore. The hero is a half-breed and a warrior, terribly scarred. I think you’ll love this story and hope you’ll take a look at the teaser and admire the beautiful artwork. When the story is released on the website, you’ll need to register at the site to read it. The story rocks, people. It really does. I LOVED writing it. I’ll post to the blog when it’s live, of course.

The website has some pretty awesome content — there are excerpts of upcoming books from Eloisa James, Lisa Kleypas and Cat Adams, as well as stories, blogs and contests. Check it out. I think it’s going to be a great community for readers who love romance.


Facebook vs. Twitter – Get Ready to rumble

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

Somebody somewhere, that I am too lazy to look up, said something the the effect that one’s Twitter followers tend to be friends while Facebook followers were — I forget, something that wasn’t friends. The implication was that Facebook was better for promotion.

At last part of that statement, in my opinion, is wrong. Your Twitter followers may well end up becoming your friends because the medium allows for real time, or near real time conversation.

My lack of engagement with Facebook might be at least partly my fault because I don’t care for Facebook. I find the interface confusing and I hate doing anything that requires me to sit there and figure it out. I hate that Facebook makes me feel like I’m taking a security risk every time I log in and that with every new “feature” I have to worry what tricky new thing they’ve done to get at and share my personal information. Like burying the logout button with, I presume, the hope that people will stay logged in and allow them to track their web surfing outside of Facebook. Anyway, I’m pretty sure I’m not leveraging Facebook, but from what I’ve seen, I don’t have time, either.

Worse, I worry about unintentionally over-communicating on Facebook. I don’t want to continually say, hey, buy my book!! all the time. People will hate me if I do that. Unfortunately, I end up doing practically nothing. I completely under-communiciate. Sigh. I removed my Twitter feed from Facebook after my brother complained about all the tweets.

At any rate, not much happens for me over at Facebook. I get friended by other authors at about 3 times the rate of readers. I think. Usually, it’s pretty easy to tell the author pics from the kind of picture a regular person uses, but every now and then I’m surprised by an author whose photo looks like it was taken on a hot day at picnic by a relative who was drunk. Authors tend to read a lot so I almost always friend them back. But I don’t think they’re fans of mine. I think they’re hoping I’m a fan of theirs. And, you know, sometimes I am. I posted my ARC contest over at Facebook and I’m not sure it brought me any additional traffic. The actual friends I have on Facebook are people who were already my friends In Real Life. I don’t think I’ve made any new friends as a result, although I have made some fun contacts — a cousin I didn’t know about, for example. The daughter of a Turkish pen pal I had in High School — now that was great!

In short, probably through my own fault, Facebook doesn’t seem to do much for me book promotion wise.

Twitter is another matter. There are probably ten or twenty people I have met through Twitter who I now consider friends. I met up with about half of them at RWA and it was lovely to meet them in person. I was thrilled, in fact, to meet them IRL. It was quite clear that the badges should have included Twitter IDs. I was constantly hearing “What’s your twitter ID?” or “Oh, You’re @[whoever]!!” Several conversations that started on Twitter have gone off line for further, deeper conversation.

Here’s an interesting Twitter story: At RWA I met a woman from New York who, I found out, was staying in Oakland CA (not too far from me) for a time. We ended up following each other on Twitter and after I got home, I saw a tweet from her regarding a pic of the Golden Gate Bride. I tweeted back and asked if she was still in the area and if so, if she would ever be coming North. The answer was yes indeed! Two days later, pretty much arranged entirely via Twitter, I met her, a good friend of hers who was visiting CA and her mother at a cafe in my home town. We had a great conversation about all kinds of things. Conversely, only once has someone on Facebook inquired about meeting me. It was a much younger man who thought I was good looking and well, he was bored and in my home town. Of course, I didn’t see his request until several days later (my fault, see above) when it was too late. Just as well as I feel it would not have been wise to meet up in any event.

When I decided to give away the rest of my ARCS, I posted it on Twitter and within five minutes all the ARCs were spoken for.

For me, Twitter works because I don’t have to log into some monolithic site to see what might be going on. Unlike FB, Twitter comes to me. I look at my feed half a second after I decide I want to. It’s right there on my desktop. If I must work without interruption, I can turn it off. The stuff that applies to me gets sorted into a single place for me to look who’s talking to me or about me. I can join any conversation I want to, whether someone follows me or not. Anyone who doesn’t like what I say or how often I say it can just unfollow me. And I can do the same.

Last night I decided to unfriend someone on Facebook because I, personally, found his politics offensive. It took me fifteen minutes to figure out how to do that. Seriously. I had to go to the online help to find out how. That spells “Horrible User Interface.”

Another issue for me is that I have a low quality internet connection, barely half a step up from dial up. This means that I spend a lot of time waiting for web pages to render, including Facebook. And 75% of the time, my connection drops and I have to start over. Often, I give up. The effect of this on my Twitter stream is much less frustrating. Sometimes I have to try a few times before tweet gets through, but I don’t have to sit there waiting for ages to see if anything is going to happen.

So there you have it. I am Facebook impaired and a Twitter fan girl. I like making friends and I have made actual In Real Life friends on Twitter and none on Facebook.

How about you?


Winner of ARC of My Immortal Assassin

Friday, August 13th, 2010

R. Varnum

Send me your snail mail address!


RWA Update Friday/Saturday

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

Let’s see . . . As Courtney Milan pointed out, there are only so many days one can get by on < 5 hrs sleep and still have no problem with daytime perkiness. She is very wise. Perkiness is an issue for many of us.

Friday afternoon

The Berkley signing was quite fun. I sat next to Julie Kenner who is really nice, and across from Ann Aguirre and Jennifer Ashley so I got to wave at them. I had Indiscreet and Scandal to sign and the beautiful covers drew people in. My books were gone by 3:30 so I popped over to the RITA reception and just in time to get my lovely finalist certificates and meet many of the other finalists.

Then I went to the GCP dinner which was lovely indeed, but goodness, I was fading fast… But then I went with authors Vickie Dreilling, Roxanne St. Clair and Kristin Painter to a bar called the BlueZoo or maybe it was the ZooBlue, Something and more people showed up and we all had a great time sitting and talking and stuff. It was quite fun, Then my roomie and I hung out with Ann Aguirre for more good times and then we went to bed about 2:00 am.

More later, must run to GCP signing…


Writing With a Teenager in The House

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

Oh my goodness. The teenage years are one heck of a transformation. When my son was little, I necessarily did my writing in snatches or when he was asleep. Young kids need supervision to protect themselves and the household. And since he’s an only child, there haven’t been siblings for him to play with. Now he’s a teenager. The eye-rolling has commenced. His eyes are going to get stuck that way. I’m tempted to tell him that too, just because of the agony it would cause him to have his mother say something so lame.

Now, I think I could close my door and write all day and as long as I came out to feed him and go shopping for more food, he would be almost happy. He would prefer, I think, that I cook dinner and when everything is on the table, that would be my cue to disappear again, to reappear to clean up only after he has left the room. All communication should be by semaphore or maybe text, as long as I don’t text him something lame. Like “Where R U?”

The difficulty now is that I am not comfortable with his apparently preferred method of communication. I would like to know what is going on with him. So I emerge from the writing cave to destroy his peace of mind by staying in the room during dinner and asking him questions about things he might like to do … etc.

And yet, it’s wonderful to watch him becoming his own person. It is my job to tolerate his need for separation while making it clear he must accept some level of parental existence. It’s worth it because every now and then I see these flashes of a brilliant, handsome, thoughtful man, and I am really quite terribly proud of him. He reminds me of how intense emotions are at this age. It’s a good reminder for me and, even, for my writing.


A Day In The Life

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Things are so crazy at work that my days are not so fun right now. Soon, hopefully, things will let up and I will have time to take a breath or two. Meanwhile, I continue writing The Next Paranormal which I THINK will actually get the title I came up with: My Dangerous Pleasure.

Which I kind of like.

This go around with the book I am being careful about doing frequent print outs to read through since I think that really helps me a lot. It’s easier for me to see where things are going wrong. It’s also easier to simply put the chapters in a new order, which is something I do a lot in the early days. This time around, I’m actually writing scenes that my gut says this will be so cool and then figuring out where it will go later. Usually I have a pretty good idea, but the read-through really helps me find the exact right spot at the time of the read-through. As things change, chapters are likely to move around again.

I’ve also removed my first character. Yay! I find that’s always a sign that things are gelling. Once I did that — folding in Extraneous Character Number 1 with the Real Antagonist– additional good ideas came out that have me very pleased. W00t!

Many writers have said they’re frightened by my process, which might well be described as The Slash and Re-Order Style of Writing and I would have to agree. It is frightening. But it works for me and that is what matters. This method, to the best of my knowledge, is not taught in any MFA program. And yet, going to grad school for writing was the best thing I ever did. It wasn’t an MFA so maybe that made the difference.


Winner of Barry Eisler’s Fault Line

Friday, May 14th, 2010

The randomly chosen winner is . . .


I’ve emailed you, but if you don’t get that email, check your spam folder or else just email me your mailing address.

Thanks to everyone who entered. It was great fun reading about all the cool stuff you’d get me, including the coffee. That was good.


Head Down again for a bit…

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

Yeah. Lots of work to get done in a very short time. Will have head down as I burn up the keyboard. Will try to be more interesting in a bit.